GLENDALE, Ariz. — With the lockout ending Thursday and several figures still available on the open market, forecasts for the 2022 season have not yet been released.
But when the commentators make their predictions, Cuban White Sox outfielder Luis Robert will see his name mentioned several times when the subject of the AL MVP award comes up. Robert is the model of a five-tool player, with his ability to catch line drives in the gutters with relative ease and then hit 400-foot homers his next at-bat.
Health is apparently the first hurdle standing between the ranger and stardom. Robert, 24, suffered a torn tendon in his right hip while running to first base after giving an infield single in the game on May 2 last year, an ailment that kept him out of action until May 9. of August. He returned with two hits against the Twins at Target Field and had a .350/.389/.622 slash line with 12 homers, 35 RBIs and 31 runs scored in his last 43 games.
Robert also went 7-for-15 in the American League Division Series against the Astros, which the Palefoots lost in four games.
“It’s about keeping him healthy and everything will work. Look at all he did after missing so much time,” Chicago manager Tony La Russa said. “He came back and was a very important part of our second half.”
“You try to stay in top shape, but things like that happen,” Robert said. “Now, I just want to try to stay healthy and have a good season like I did at the end of last year.”
Serious injuries punished the White Sox more than once in 2021. Dominican outfielder Eloy Jiménez was out until July 26 after undergoing surgery for a torn left pectoral tendon, which he sustained in the final week of spring training. Primavera while trying to steal a home run in a Cactus League game.
After hitting seven homers and driving in 27 runs in August, Jimenez hit two homers with seven RBIs and a .608 OPS in his last 25 regular-season games. Cuban catcher Yasmani Grandal hurt his right knee early in Spring Training, then tore a tendon in his left knee July 5 at Target Field that sidelined him until Aug. 27.
Right-hander Michael Kopech sat out May 27 through early July with a hamstring problem, second baseman Nick Madrigal missed the entire season after surgery on a torn right hamstring before moving to the Cubs and the first Cuban guard José Abreu battled with discomfort all season. However, the Palefoots managed 93 victories and easily conquered the American League Central title.
Having two youngsters like Robert and Jiménez healthy throughout the campaign would be the basics to take Chicago to another level, without adding other pieces.
“It won’t be just for this year,” Robert said. “If we are healthy, we will be able to help the team and that is what we want. So I think that’s the goal now. If I stay healthy, good things will happen.”
Robert felt in great shape after he returned from a sprained hip, though he admitted he didn’t push himself as hard as he could during the regular season to “stay up for the postseason.” He left Game 4 of the ALDS with a stiff right leg, but now feels fine.
The MVP issue elicited a small smile from Robert, because it means some recognize the kind of talent he has. However, the accolades don’t change Robert’s daily focus or work ethic.
“I always give everything I have when I’m on the field. That will never change,” Robert declared. “It is true that every player sets that goal every year. Win an MVP, a Gold Glove and get as many awards and recognition as possible.
“In the end, what matters most is winning it all: Winning a World Series. That is the goal, not only mine, but that of each player”.
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In good health, the sky is the limit for Robert